Dec 12, 6:10 PM EST

Immigrant's family hopes he will be able to leave church

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DENVER (AP) -- The family of an immigrant living in a Denver church to avoid deportation hopes he will be home in time for Christmas.

Arturo Hernandez's wife on Friday said meetings with immigration officials in Washington have given her hope her husband will be able to leave the church. He would qualify for President Obama's deportation relief if he didn't have an already-active deportation case.

Ana Sauzameda and her two children were part of a group of religious leaders and families seeking shelter from deportation in churches that flew to Washington this week to lobby for wider leniency from the Obama administration.

The president last month said his administration would permit as many as 4 million immigrants living here illegally with U.S. citizen children to stay in the country and work. But many immigrants who at first blush may qualify will slip through the cracks. Hernandez could be one of them because of his four-year-old deportation case.

It stems from an assault charge that Hernandez was acquitted of at trial. But it prevents Hernandez from qualifying for deportation relief that Sauzameda and their oldest daughter both can receive. The couple's youngest daughter, age 9, is already a U.S. citizen.

The state's three Democratic congressional representatives have urged the Obama administration to let Hernandez, who fled to the church in October after immigration officials issued a final deportation order, to stay in the country.

On Friday, Sauzameda said she was heartened by the attention that officials in Washington and Denver have given the case and that she remains hopeful.

"We hope he will be home for Christmas," Sauzameda said.

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